National Reformed Presbyterianism” The American Sentinel 1, 8, pp. 60, 61.

AT its recent session at Rochester, New York, the Reformed Presbyterian Synod adopted a memorial to Congress, urging upon that body the necessity of the Religious Amendment to the Constitution, advocated by the National Reform Party. The memorial “is to be signed by all adult members of the church both male and female, and laid before the National Legislature.” We have not space to print the memorial entire; suffice it to say that it presents the usual National Reform complaints about the present Constitution having in it “no acknowledgment of God nor of the moral laws of his Government;” that this “encourages the false doctrine that civil government has no moral nor religious duties to perform;” that the refusal of this nation to acknowledge the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ as king, and to accept his law, “involves the Nation in unspeakable guilt and exposes us to the chastising and destroying judgments of God,” etc., etc., and closes with these words:—

“That we who present this petition are unable, for these reasons, to accept the Constitution as a right fundamental law for the nation, and are, therefore, debarred on conscientious grounds from participation in the Government. We can neither take office under it ourselves, nor by voting for others, lay this Constitution upon them as the rule of their official conduct.

“We pray you, therefore, to propose such an amendment to the National Constitution as shall suitably acknowledge Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ruler of nations, and his revealed will as of supreme authority in national affairs, and so place all Christian laws, institutions, and usages in our Government on an undeniable legal basis in the fundamental law of the land.”

It will be seen at once that this is a regular National Reform document. Indeed, the National Reform movement is nothing else than Reformed Presbyterianism in politics. The first step that was ever taken, the first paper that was ever presented in behalf of the National Reform movement, was by a Reformed Presbyterian, Mr. John Alexander, of Philadelphia. The leading, active workers in National Reform, called District Secretaries, are, with two exceptions, Reformed Presbyterians. Rev. W. J. Coleman, Rev. M. A. Gault, Rev. R. C. [61] Wylie, Rev. J. M. Foster, and Rev. N. M. Johnston, with Rev. D. McAllister and Rev. T. P. Stevenson, editors of the Christian Statesman, are all Reformed Presbyterians. The other two District Secretaries, Rev. J. H. Leiper and Rev. Wm. Weir, are professedly United Presbyterians, but in advocating the National Reform the clearly violate the United Presbyterian creed, and stand as avowed Reformed Presbyterians. All the arguments for National Reform are Reformed Presbyterian arguments; all the principles are Reformed Presbyterian principles. We repeat, therefore, that the National Reform movement is nothing else than Reformed Presbyterianism in politics.

That this is the truth will be plainly apparent to any one who is acquainted with the two bodies; and the more closely the subject is studied, the more evident this truth will appear. We have room here for only a few points in proof. A catechism of the distinctive features of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, by William L. Roberts, D.D. in presenting the supposed claims of Christ as king in the civil affairs of nations, and the duties of nations to acknowledge him as civil ruler, declares this to be “a peculiar principle of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and the grand doctrine of their Testimony.” And “their Testimony” condemns as an error, the statement, “That there is any creature or institution which is not subject to Christ, for the good of his church.”

In the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, Rev. J. R. W. Sloane says of the Reformed Presbyterians:—

“The more special and distinctive principle of this Church, the one in which she differs from all others, is her practical protest against the secular character of the United States Constitution. Holding to the universal headship of Christ, and that civil government is a divine ordinance, and one of the ‘all things’ put under him as the mediatorial ruler of the universe, and that to him the allegiance of all nations is due, Reformed Presbyterians refuse close incorporation with any government which does not in some form recognize those principles, and give them effective expression in its legislation. On examination of the United States Constitution, that remarkable document is found to contain no recognition of God as the source of all legitimate civil authority, nor of his law as supreme above all human laws, nor of his Son as governor among the nations…. The Constitution does not recognize the Bible, the Christian Sabbath, Christian morality, Christian qualifications for civil officials, and gives no legal basis for any Christian feature in the administration of Government…. They take the deepest interest in that reform movement which has for its object the amendment of the United States Constitution in those particulars in which they consider it defective. Indeed, they feel specially called to aid in its success, at whatever cost or personal sacrifice.”

The report on National Reform in the late Synod referred to above, says:—

“It is ours to hold up the ideals of God which have originated the National Reform cause.”

In the Reformed Presbyterian for January, 1870, James Wallace says:—

“The proposed Amendment of the Federal Constitution is an acknowledgment by the Government, that God is the author and source of all authority and power in civil government; that the Lord Jesus Christ is the ruler of nations, and that his revealed will contained in the Bible is the supreme law of nations. Now the Association for National Reform proposes to have these Reformed Presbyterian Church adopted into the Constitution of the United States, and annulling any parts of that Constitution that may be inconsistent with these principles.”

Again he says:—

“The principles of National Reform are our principles, and its work is our work. National Reform is simply the practical application of the principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church for the reformation of the nation.”

It is, therefore, as clear as a sunbeam that the National Reform movement is an effort to put into the Constitution of the United States and make practical there, the distinctive principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and that the National Reform Party is doing the work of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. And when the United Presbyterian Church, the United Brethren Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Prohibitionists, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, or any other church, party, or union, lends its support to the National Reform Party, it is but doing the work of the Reformed Presbyterian Church,—it is simply aiding to make of practical application in the civil affairs of this Nation, the distinctive principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

According to these principles, what is the duty of the State? Rev. J. M. Foster tells us:—

“The duties which the reigning mediator requires of nations,” are “(I) A constitutional recognition of himself as king of nations… (2) A constitutional recognition of their duty as the divinely appointed keeper of the moral law…. (3) A constitutional provision of moral and religious qualifications for their officers…. (4) An acknowledgment and exemplification of the duty of national covenanting with him…. (5) An acknowledgment and performance of the Nation’s duty to guard and protect the Church—by suppressing all public violation of the moral law; by maintaining a system of public schools, indoctrinating their youth in morality and virtue; by exempting church property from taxation;” and “by providing her funds out of the public treasury for carrying on her aggressive work at home and in the foreign field.”Christian Statesman, February 21, 1884.

Now take even the phenomenal definition given by the National Reform Party itself, as to what constitutes a union of Church and State, i.e., “the selection of one church, the endowment of such a church, the appointment of its officers, and the oversight of its doctrines,” and if this Reformed Presbyterian National Reform scheme does not sufficiently meet the definition, then nothing can; and if such would not be a union of Church and State, then there has never been any such union in this world.

And yet, knowing that the principles of National Reform are the peculiar principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church; knowing that the distinctive point of their attack—the secular character of the Constitution—is the distinctive principle of that church, “the one in which she differs from all others;” knowing that the success of the National Reform movement will be but to make practical, in the affairs of this Government, these principles which are peculiar to the Reformed Presbyterian Church—knowing all this, Dr. McAllister, T. P. Stevenson, W. J. Coleman, M. A. Gault, R. C. Wylie, J. M. Foster, and all their Reformed Presbyterians National Reform associates, in National Convention assembled, will stand before the intelligent people of this Nation, and “affirm” and “re-affirm” that this movement does not tend, “in the least degree,” toward a union of Church and State!

A. T. J.

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